it is simply a payoff that motivates us to perform the behavior that
leads to the reward.
The observational learner uses his/her head and thinks. He/she
must attend to the model, remember what the model did, see the
usefulness of the model's behavior, and be able to duplicate the
behavior (after some practice). This kind of learning, along with
classical and operant, is also involved in many things we do. We learn
how to socialize, to do a job, to intimidate by yelling...from others.
Every one of us can readily see the influence of our parents' model on
our habits, preferences, attitudes, and patterns of thought. In several
places in this book, the powerful influence of friends will be mentioned.
Schools, TV, entertainment stars, religion, and other sources provide
other models. In complex ways these models help us decide how to
behave and what kind of person we want to be.
Observational learning involves higher order thinking, not just
thoughtless imitating. The person becomes a controlling factor; we
make decisions that direct our lives; our mind is an active "agent"
involved in learning and changing ourselves and our environment.
Cognition and the modern evolution of self-control
In the 1970's much of psychology returned to the study of the
mind. Cognitive psychology studied memory, information processing,
decision-making, etc. Attribution theory described how thoughts
(about what caused what) could influence behavior, and Rational-
Emotive therapists said thoughts (irrational ideas) produced emotions.
Academic researchers studied reasoning, judgment, the purposes of
excuses or rationalizations, etc. Even behavioral therapists started
teaching their clients to be assertive and to give themselves
instructions. The list could go on, but psychology was again thinking
Bandura (1977; 1980b; 1986) came to believe that human
behavior is largely self-regulated. He concluded that we evaluate our
own behavior; the satisfaction felt when we do well is intrinsic
reinforcement. He assumed that self-rewarded behavior was just as
well learned as externally reinforced behavior, maybe better. Bandura
has also researched extensively the concept of self-efficacy which is
one's beliefs about his/her ability or inability to control one's own
behavior, based on personal accomplishments or failures. Clearly,
Social Learning Theory involves antecedents (environment),
consequences (motivating pay offs), and complicated cognitive
Many other psychological theory-developers have studied self-
control recently. Mischel (1981) and his students researched the
"delay of gratification" which is when we work or wait for a big payoff
instead of taking smaller immediate rewards. They studied how a child
avoids temptations, including having distracting-but-fun thoughts
while waiting, developing a "plan" for the payoff, and making use of